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Funded PhD Opportunity

Maths In Preterm Pre-schoolers (MIPP)

Subject: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience


Summary

This project aims to identify environmental factors that may influence very preterm (VP< <32 weeks gestation) children’s early mathematical learning in order to identify the key components of new intervention strategies to reduce problems with their learning. Compared with children who were born at term, children who were born VP are at markedly higher risk for mathematics learning difficulties later in life. By the age of 8, 42% of very preterm children have special educational needs compared with just 18% of children born at term (Simms et al., 2015).

The team aims to identify the content and quality of parent-child interactions and the learning activities that VP children may experience at home during the preschool years are related to their preschool mathematics skills. Previous studies of children in the general population have shown that parent-child interactions and the home numeracy environment impact on children’s early maths skills. Research has also shown that very preterm children struggle with mathematics throughout school and that, in addition, the way parents interact with their child influences the general development of very preterm children. However, there have been no studies that have looked at how parent-child interactions and the home numeracy environment impact on early mathematical learning in VP children. Early numeracy skills, such as counting ability and knowledge of number words, are strongly associated with a child’s later mathematical achievement in school. Understanding what impacts on children’s early maths skills is needed to help develop new preschool interventions to improve very preterm children’s maths skills. Therefore, this study will provide a vital evidence base to inform the development of preschool interventions to improve the long-term learning and development of very preterm children.

This study will observe interactions between preschool children (both term-born and very preterm) aged 3-4 years and their parents in KidsLab at Ulster University. Parents and children will be asked to play four short structured games together, two of the games will be number-based games, such as snakes and ladders, and two will be non-number based, such as a lotto game. During the completion of these tasks parent-child interactions will be video recorded and the interaction between the parent and child will be observed and coded following methods such as those used by Bjorkland, Hubertz and Reubens (2004) to assess behaviours that foster early maths learning. Parents will also complete a questionnaire about their home numeracy environment and the children’s early maths and language skills will be assessed using standardised measures.

These data will enable the research team to develop evidenced-based early interventions in collaboration with teachers and parents to improve the mathematics skills of children born very preterm. The successful candidate will be required to engage with key stakeholders, such as parents of children born preterm, early years professionals, and paediatricians. The candidate will be required to work independently under the supervision of the study team. This PhD project provides an excellent opportunity to develop advanced skills in developmental psychology research.


AccessNI clearance required

Please note, the successful candidate will be required to obtain AccessNI clearance prior to registration due to the nature of the project.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Hold a Masters degree in Psychology or related area
  • Recognition of the importance of research integrity and Open Science practices

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Michelle Clements Clements

Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
18 + 19 + 20 March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
The feeling of community at our Coleraine campus makes for a warm and welcoming student experience.


Contact supervisor

Dr Victoria Simms


Other supervisors

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